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Pablo Batista on the earthy pulse propelling a starry career

Percussionist Pablo Batista during a visit to WRTI in 2023.
Percussionist Pablo Batista during a visit to WRTI in 2023.

Pablo Batista is a true Philadelphia treasure, and I was excited by the chance to talk about his journey. Throughout his career, he has added his percussion expertise to the efforts of many artists — recently including H.E.R., whose Oscar-winning “Fight For You” (from the soundtrack to Judas and the Black Messiah) features his handiwork.

Batista spent more than a decade bringing his expansive knowledge of percussion from around the world to the music of Alicia Keys. He cites his early interactions with Grover Washington, Jr., the celebrated Philadelphia saxophonist, as a catalyst that kick-started his career and impacted the trajectory of his life.

Besides demonstrating techniques on a host of percussion instruments, as well as an electronic pad that he programmed to reproduce dozens more sounds (including farm animals), Pablo took the time in our conversation to share his favorite cheesesteak spot, top Philly sports team, and choice Tastykake product.


He also recalled how petrified he was, as a kid from Bethlehem, when he matriculated to Temple University. He recounted his quest to visit Cuba — “the source,” he calls it — and how he was able to eventually spend time there to study.

Batista was born in 1962, a fact that he regards as extremely important to his development and appreciation for a wide range of music. “I was raised in an era where music was amazing,” he says, further adding that “back in the day, everybody had a percussionist.” This led him to believe that if he studied and mastered the instruments of the percussion family, he’d position himself to work in a range of genres — a self-fulfilling prophecy, and an obvious point of pride.

Producer and Host: J. Michael Harrison
Senior Producer, Videographer and Editor: Alex Ariff
Engineer: Tyler McClure
Videographer: Mikyhial Clarke
Production Assistant: Paul Marchesani

J. Michael Harrison’s first radio show, WPEB’s “Is That Jazz” launched in June of 1993. In 1994 he began volunteering with WRTI as a production assistant. In 1996, J. Michael debuted his own program, The Bridge, which continues to air Friday evenings on WRTI.